PS 124

New York

In training, teachers learn new ways to talk about student work

Dennis Walcott joined principal Annabelle Martinez (standing) and teachers at P.S. 124 in Sunset Park for training on the Common Core standards. Huddled around tables in their school library, three dozen teachers at P.S. 124 in Sunset Park got a taste for how new standards being rolled out across the city would reshape their work in the classroom this fall. Principal Annabelle Martinez handed out photocopies of student writing samples and asked the teachers to evaluate the work according to the new standards. For a team of third-grade teachers, that meant looking at a short essay about weather and determining whether the author used "informative and explanatory text to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly." At first, the teachers found strengths in the essay's display of mechanics. One teacher pointed out that the student had used capitalization correctly. "He knows his paragraphs," another teacher said. "And he knows sentence structure too." Later, the teachers used a projector to present their notes to their colleagues. Under Martinez's guidance, the teachers revised how they discussed the student's strengths. Now, they called the essay "informative" and said it was organized well by topic and included a "clear introduction" and a "clear conclusion" — language that was more in line with the new standards. Scenes like this were playing out in schools across the five boroughs this morning as part of an extra day of professional development given to staff before students start class tomorrow.
New York

City's Common Core rollout ramps up today with teacher training

When it comes to new "common core" standards, theoretical language is giving way to hands-on practice. The curriculum standards, accepted by 48 states, are being rolled out citywide this year after being piloted in 100 schools last year. Today, every teacher in the city is expected to get training on them. Chancellor Dennis Walcott sat in on a training session this morning at Brooklyn's PS 124, which took part in the pilot last year. But at many schools, today is likely to be the first time that teachers learn just how the common core standards are poised to change their jobs. Some principals put together their own plans for today, but they can also draw on four 90-minute lessons the city devised. One session asks teachers to evaluate student work from their own school to see if it meets the new standards. In another, they will practice assessing teachers according to a new evaluation rubric. A third lesson focuses on connecting two overarching citywide goals: strengthening student work and teacher practice. And a fourth lesson asks teachers to examine student work from a school that adopted the new standards last year. The lessons are part of the Department of Education's online "Common Core Library" of resources. In a letter to principals last week announcing the lesson plans, Walcott laid out a timeline for schools' common core-related accomplishments. This fall, he wrote, teams of teachers at each school should identify students' shortcomings. In the winter, teachers should ask all students to complete two common core-aligned "tasks," one in reading and one in math. Through it all, principals should be giving teachers frequent feedback based on classroom observations, Walcott wrote. Walcott's letter to principals is below: